Amy Freedheim’s 15-year-old son had one request of his mother when he started his driver’s training course this year: Do not tell the driving instructor what you do!
Amy complied, but it was a bit like not wanting your high school football coach to know you’re Pete Carroll’s son.
Amy is the veteran prosecutor of felony traffic crimes in King County: felony-impaired driving, hit and runs, and vehicular assault and vehicular homicide cases.
Along her office wall, there are more than 100 photos of auto collision victims.
“The boy at the top is Matthew Chumley,” Amy says of the first solo case she tried in 1998. The 20-year-old Ballard boy was killed by a repeat DUI offender who also had received 3 years probation for killing a mother of two while driving impaired in the early ‘70s. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving ushered in tougher DUI laws in the early ‘80s; and over the past two decades, Amy has played a significant role in increasing DUI sentences here in Washington State.)
In one, you dig through the dirt to find facts. In the other, you’re digging through facts to find dirt.
In high school, Amy’s goal was to be a cardiovascular thoracic surgeon. Before heading off to Oberlin College, someone advised the potential chemistry major to take the courses she needed for medicine (chemistry, physics) but enrich her studies with the full spectrum of a liberal arts curriculum. Amy eventually started studying ancient laws in archeology and ended up pursuing a degree in Classical Archeology before enrolling in law school at Case Western Reserve University.
She laughs when she recalls her job interview with the King County Prosecutor’s office. Someone asked Amy, “What’s the connection between law and Classical Archeology?”
Amy blurted out, “In one, you dig through the dirt to find facts. In the other, you’re digging through facts to find dirt.”
It’s dirt and shattered glass windshields and twisted metal that Amy digs through these days as she’s working on cases.
“The physics classes I took help me understand things like momentum in reconstructing a crash,” Amy says.
Experience builds on knowledge for the prosecutor who didn’t expect to stay for many years when she joined the King County office in 1991.
“We joke about the ‘golden handcuffs’ for young law associates who start out at big firms making large salaries and can’t leave because they become saddled with mortgages and debts that require the salary,” Amy says. “In this office, I call it the ‘adrenaline handcuffs’ because of the rush we get from working in criminal law; figuring out the best resolution for the victim and the community and balancing the rights of the defendant. In this office, the emphasis is not just getting a conviction. We want to do justice and do what is right."
Photo by Chris Mobley.
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